The debate between
movies and TV can finally be put to rest, and ironically, is the final nail in the coffin. That’s because the long-awaited follow-up to The Many Saints of Newark The Sopranos, considered the best show ever made – the one that singlehandedly kicked off the modern TV renaissance – recently landed on HBO like an angel with its wings cut off. That sounds harsh, but it’s fitting considering we’re talking about mob families here.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its moments. It’s just that making a two-hour film that even hopes to hold a candle to the holy grail of TV is like showing someone a picture of the Sistine Chapel on your iPhone.
As streaming dominates, it’s become painfully clear that modern movies just can’t compete with great TV. Especially if the movie tries to expand on a world we know and love so well (ahem,
El Camino). That grey area between a franchise and a standalone movie is a one-way ride to the chophouse that we’ll explore today in our brutally honest review of The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story.
Cover Photo: Warner Bros.
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Many Saint of Newark Honest Review
Setting the Table
When the creator came back to pen this movie he had to make a choice: write a really good
Sopranos episode or a really good mob movie? By going for the latter, the story of Dick Multisanti's downfall lacks all the touchstones that made The Sopranos remarkable. It took us 45 minutes to realize we were in the wrong restaurant, there was no entree, and we were eating a bunch of tapas that didn't exactly go together.
Tony on Tony
Funny, the thing everyone was worried about was if James Gandolfini's son Michael was going to tarnish his dad's legacy. Turns out, that was the least of the movie's worries. The kid nailed it. Not only is his resemblance uncanny (for good reason) the newbie actor picked up all of Tony's mannerisms and inner malaise. His old man would have been proud.
The Thing About Dead People
We like dead people as much as the next guy, but using them to narrate the bookends of your movie only works if they have something to do with the story you're telling. Framing the entire conceit as an origin story for Chris Multisani's cab ride to hell makes about as much sense as the ramblings of a senile priest. Was the voiceover an afterthought? A way to glue the film together like a broken plate? The closing line of the movie is so off-putting, we felt like we'd just spent two hours trampling gravestones.
Kicking Ass, Taking Names
The movie crams in a few bursts of violence but each shotgun blast and tongue drilling feels generic (except one) compared to the TV show. Like, remember that time Furio burst into the massage parlor to earn Tony's love? Or the kitchen deathmatch between Tony and Ralph that ended in the bathtub? These explosions of violence were truly shell-shocking and unforgettable. Turning violence into poetry was part of the genius of the show. Here it's not so much poetry as a pickup line scribbled onto the back of a napkin by a drunk grabass at closing time.
The Bad Pacing Drinking Game
If you placed a bottle of rye next to you during the opening shot and took a sip every time an awkward scene change happened, you'd be drunk and fetching a second bottle halfway through. This is the true weakness of
The Many Saints of Newark. The pacing is consistently off to the point where you never feel the weight of anything that's happening. Someone gets killed. Are we mad about it? Not sure. Gotta move the body. Are we stressed? Not really. Tony steals an ice cream truck. Does it matter? The movie doesn't really know, so how the hell are we supposed to?
Who's Laughing Harder?
From the opening shot of
The Sopranos, the sense of humor hums, tongue firmly planted in cheek as Tony sits in the waiting room of his psychiatrist, framed by the naked legs of a female statue he can't help but check out. For a show about family drama, personal demons, murder, and power, The Sopranos was a laugh riot. The movie on the other hand never lands a joke, telegraphing its punches and lacking the subtext that makes a joke funny in more ways than one. We were expecting to work off some of the ziti we ate before the movie, not eat a second ziti to keep things interesting.
'Casa Senza Fimmina Impuvirisci'
"How poor is a home without a woman." This old Italian phrase must have been talking about
The Many Saints of Newark, for unlike The Sopranos, which boasted the most fully realized female characters on television, the film sidelines their women to the thankless roles of lonely mistress and neurotic mother. Not so much people unto themselves, so much as foils for the men's inner turmoil. In the year 2021, that just seems old-fashioned.
Not A Dumpster Fire
OK, enough busting balls. If we're being brutally honest here, let's admit one important fact: The movie isn't a stinker. It's beautiful to watch and the lead performances are genuinely powerful. But as a mob movie, it ranks down there somewhere between
The Iceman and Killing Them Softly. Let's just say it won't do much to ignite a new generation of fans the way Instagram did for mom jeans.
But hey, with Michael Gandolfini's solid performance teasing a sequel with a young Chris Multisanti, could there be another movie and will it be better than the first? Fuggetaboutit. We're not pinky promising anything.